View Full Version : bad badges without a cause??

06-20-2009, 02:08 PM
Dear folks,
Since this is my first post here, i will give a short introduction of me and my brewing history, from which at the end i will distill some (urgent/ desparate) questions. Maybe someone has a clue..
Well, for a starters, I'm Dutch, so no jokes about brewing it cheaply at home:mad:
My first brewed batch was of 10 litres mead, from a dutch(the only, that's why i've come here) website.

The recipe;
3kg honey, a cup of strong tea, 10 Litres water, and 'superyeast'' and yeast 'feed'' (supplement?)
-Blend the honey with the water and boil it. While boiling, scoop off the foam, it contains the stuff you get a hangover from..
After boiling, add the yeast supplement and tea, Let it cool down and add the yeast..
First it needs air to start the yeasting, so leave the container with the lid open, preferrebly with a sheet over it to keep the bugs out.
After 3 days, pour it in a container (cleaned with chloride solution or sulphite.. Used the latter one, after 12 times rinsing the yeasting wouldn't start)
and let it yeast untill it almost doesn't bubble any more, and bottle it in cleaned bottles..

The first badge was a big hit!
After this i boiled strawberry and cherry jam(marmelade?) im water, filtered it with a dishwash-drying clothe (straight out of the washer) which is a lot of work, and let it cool down and give it the same treatment as the mead..

Also this worked out fine. Even the must/badge where my (pet-) ferret took a few laps of swimming in it! (always told people AFTER they drunk it).
Suddenly, nothing went good anymore, it got sour or an foul dustlike flavour.
So went cleaning out even more, worked with boiling water and so on.
Also I dispatched of the aluminium kettle since i thought it could be the reason and got a laminated-don't know the english termology for it, i mean the old style grey stuff over the metal- one for it back.
Left out the first open yeasting but of no effect..
Bought new glass 15 liters containers, new rubber caps and air locks.(can these be a source of contamination, even after pouring hot water over them>??)

A lot of time and money literally down the drain..
Since then, i make very well tasting strawberry wine from lemonade and water, no boiling and add champagne yeast and supplement straight away( superyeasthad a distinctfull taste. Champagne yeast has a better taste, also get to hihger alcohol levels but needs more time..
Also when aging it develops smaller bubbles then with superyeast)

Okay, here my questions
1 what could i have done wrong, when i did the same with the badges which worked!
2 the first days of 'ópen' yeasting.. A -It is a risk of contamination. Air can make the (alcohol?) sour?

Others told me; B;- If you leave the open yeasting out, it will get sour by lack of oxygen, which helps certain bacteria to flourish..
What to do????
3; Can it be the honey? maybe now imported form another country?
Looking forward to any reply,

Medsen Fey
06-20-2009, 07:27 PM
Okay, here my questions
1 what could i have done wrong, when i did the same with the badges which worked!
2 the first days of 'ópen' yeasting.. A -It is a risk of contamination. Air can make the (alcohol?) sour?

Others told me; B;- If you leave the open yeasting out, it will get sour by lack of oxygen, which helps certain bacteria to flourish..
What to do????
3; Can it be the honey? maybe now imported form another country?
Looking forward to any reply,

Welcome to GotMead? Arnaud!!!

I had some difficulty following the exact recipe process you followed with the batch that went bad. In the future, if you will post in in a format like THIS (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/faq.php?faq=meadfaq#faq_newbee) it will make it easier for everyone to understand. I will also suggest that you take some time to review the NewBee Guide (http://www.gotmead.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=108&Itemid=14) as it will provide many answers.

In answer to your questions a batch turning sour like either has acetic acid bacteria, a spoilage yeast or another spoilage bacteria as the cause. During active fermentation the CO2 production by the fermenting yeast prevents many of these organisms from occurring. While the yeast do benefit from air exposure during the early part of fermentation, once the fermentation has stopped, protection from air becomes critical. Acetic acid bacteria cannot function without oxygen and if you have a batch that remains open to air after fermentation has completed, it will sour as it begins to transform into vinegar. Keeping mead protected from air will not favor bacteria - quite the opposite.

Keeping ferrets and other animals out will reduce the chances of other spoilage organisms being introduced, and good sanitation of containers is also important. The use of sulfur dioxide (metabisulphite) can also be helpful in protecting a mead.

While some types of honey can bring some odd/off flavors, they generally don't cause a mead to taste sour.

I think if you do some reading here, I think you'll find that you can prevent most cases of spoilage.


06-21-2009, 06:41 AM
Thanks for your suggestions.
I only had the must contacted with air during the first 3 days. After that, i kept it under a waterlock untill the yeating process is almost over, then i bottled it..
So, the open-yeasting stage is not reccomendable after all??
But okay, with or without open fermentation, they all went bad.
As i stated i spent a lot of effort cleaning all material. The more i cleaned, the worse it seemed to get.
Also, i only started to use new, sealed containers of yeast.
I really wonder how they managed to brew beer in the medievel times!

About the re-hydrating of the yeast i have some questions;
! in never did this in the beginning, but if i add luke-warm water in a cup with yeast, there are 2 possible source of contamination;
1 the tap water
2 the cup?
Is it okay to use luke-warm tap water or use this to get the mixture to a more favourable temperature for the yeast?
I'm afrid that luke-warm tap water contains bacteria that might have a negative effect..
The same for sugar if i decide to make a yeast-starter..

As of sulfur dioxide, i tried to clean a glass 15L bottle with it. After rinsing it a lot of times with clean water, nothing would ferment in it..So i also disposed of this one..
I really wonder if the rubber caps and plastic airlocks, even rinsed with boiling water, can still be a source of contamination??
And is aluminium also a risk factor??

Normally, the ferrets don't come into the kitchen. Their playing area is restricted to the living room..
This happened once and a ferret took a swim in it. Maybe it is a secret ingredient because this badge turned out okay!
But serious, i am brewing for quite some years and now the theory how it should work out okay, but theory and reality don't agree with each other.
That's why i do hope someone here can tell me what i did wrong!

06-21-2009, 07:48 AM
As i have just read the newbee stuff, i am still puzzled by some things..

1st; The yeast doesn't need oxygen but the mixture does nee oxygen to help to get the cell walls closed, right?

When puring hot boiled mixture in a container, and putting a cap with airlock on it, i think not much oxygen will be added because of the hot temperature..
Is this right?

Can the lack of oxygen be a cause of the failed badges??

Up to so far, i do not use open fermenting with my lemonade-wine(non-boiled) but i guess the pouring of the additional cold water, litre by litre will be sufficient..

Also, the open fermentaion is a big risk for contamination? so why if it is not really neccesary?

Maybe an solution; when I boil the honey with HALF the amount of water, and then cool it down with (the other half)cold water, for instance with a shower nozzle
(1- this goes faster, so less risk of contamination, and 2- the spraying get oxygen in it.
But; is water from a shower nozzle safe?)
..and then get an air lock over it.. Am i safe then??

To protect the open fermenttiona clean cloth is mentioned.
What is clean.. From the cupboard or boiled down??
Thanks for the advice!

06-21-2009, 01:21 PM
Hi Arnaud.

Let's try to get back to the beginning to see if we can find something consistently right with the good batches and wrong with the bad ones. It sounds like you have a lot of practices that are constantly changing, so it might be difficult to pinpoint the sticking points; in fact, there might be many small problems that end up looking like one big one.

About sanitation. You say you used bleach for some things, and hot water for others. Both, used properly, should work alright at least most of the time. Bleach is kind of nasty though, and needs to be rinsed out very very well. A bleach residue could compromise yeast health and will definitely leave a flavor in the final product. (and bleach + wood can lead to some even more gross flavors.) Lots of rinsing effectively removes the sanitization that the bleach gives you, unless you use sterile water to rinse.

Hot water is ok and a lot of people use it, but it is not consistent. You need to get the temperature of your equipment up pretty high for several minutes (something like 65ºC for 10 or 15 mins) to get the buggies to die. Depending on the material, the volume of water you use, etc the temperature you get from the hot water treatment will vary, and even 5º less means a lot longer contact time is needed. Also be very careful using hot water and glass. Glass doesn't like to have its temperature changed very quickly and you can easily crack a container (sometimes explosively) by pouring hot water into it.

Even with more careful control of temperature and time, hot water is still not consistent. Bacteria can live in cracks and grooves and might not get flushed out/killed each time. So some batches might turn out well, and some not. If you wanted to try another sanitizer, there are two no-rinse formulas that work reliably. In the US they are sold as Iodophor and StarSan. The first is an iodine solution (with some buffers and such in there too), and the second is phosphoric acid based (with surfactants and buffers and such). You should be able to find these or similar products; try a restaurant supply company if you can't find them elsewhere.

Ok, that covers the first step. Next let's talk air. Oxygen is a vital nutrient during the initial stages of fermentation when the yeast population is growing rapidly. The oxygen is needed to construct things like cell walls. No cell walls, no yeast. :( Generally you want to whip air into your must right before, right after, and/or during the first few days of the fermentation. After about 1/3 to 1/2 of the sugars have been consumed, more air becomes detrimental. After you reach this point, the yeast population is not growing (or growing only very very slowly) and the oxygen is not eaten by the yeast. Instead, it will interact with all the other stuff in your mead and you'll get toasty, nutty, cardboard oxidation flavors.

Open fermentation is not a bad thing. Keeping the must open to the air gives you greater gas exchange which means less CO2 in your must and more O2. A very vigorous fermentation should be releasing enough gas to blow away most dust (and the bugs on the dust) that would otherwise land in your mead. A clean cloth is still a good idea to reduce even further the stuff that can fall in, and also keeps out bugs (as in insects) that will cary their own bacteria with them as they drown in your delicious mead. Cloth might or might not prevent ferrets from taking a bath, in which case you might consider a loosely-fitting lid. ;) The cloth or lid can and should be sanitized.

Hot water dissolves very little gas, so yes you are correct that your hot must will have essentially no oxygen in it. Cool it down and stir in air however you like (power drill, giant spoon, shaking, airstone...).

Lastly I'd like to ask when and at what temperature you add the yeast. If you're adding the yeast when the must is hot, a lot of them might be dying. That will lead to slower fermentation and much greater risk of contamination. You can never keep all other organisms out of your must (without some serious work), but the idea is you add billions of yeast and they can bully the other microbes around. If you reduce your yeast addition, those other beasties might be able to run the show instead. This also leads to the question: how much yeast are you adding? e.g. how many grams of dry yeast (or ml of liquid yeast slurry) per gallon/liter of must?

Keep lots of notes while you are trying to figure this out. Once things are ironed out, you'll want to know how you did it! ;D Good luck and keep us posted.

06-21-2009, 02:03 PM
ofcourse i get puzzled again.. you say air is good and nessicary, but at one point it will oxidate with the mead. How can one EVER now how long/how much oxigen is enough and too much? this is impossible?
I did not alter much apart from the open fermentation. after 2-3 days i locked it under an air lock. i guess aftyer that the O2 will make the alcohol sour. But i do not know how much O2 is dissolved and do the same thing.
Also, many batches without open fermentation succeeded. The chance of a batch succeeding didn't seem to correlate with open fermentation.
All lemonade wine is made without open fermentation and most of them succeed(more or less)

Further i do not understand the term 'whipping air in it' this should be happening in the open air? i guess it is easier to pour everything in the drain..

And, why is CO2 in the must a problem? i thought it was a good thing?

I understand, that pouring boiling water over rubber and plastic parts is not enough to kill bacteria, so the caps etc. might have been an source of infection?maybe boiling it in an container might work, but i found out this destroyes the plastic air locks..

Ofcourse, i never added yeast untill the must was lukewarm. Most of the times i did not hydrate the yeast because i want to skip as many contaminating stages as possible..
And i wonder if lukewarm tap water is save or not..?

Ofcourse, i rinse out the bleach about 6-12 times. This is normaly enough.. For sulphur oxide it isn't..

Further, the laminated brewing-kettel has some chips and cracks where metal is showing..
A bad thing?

Medsen Fey
06-21-2009, 02:57 PM
A chipped or peeling coating on a pot is never a good thing, but it is not the cause of spoilage organisms. I would suggest you consider not boiling or heating you mead musts at all. They do not need to be heated, and it saves considerable time and effort and reduces the chances of getting scalded. I virtually never heat my musts, and don't have any problems with spoilage during fermentations.

Oxygen (air exposure) is beneficial during the first 1/3 of fermentation (which can be tracked using a hydrometer). After that, it is not helping and sealing a batch under airlock at that point is what I usually do.

I believe Brouwland has all the sanitizers to choose from. I am not sure why the sulfites have caused you a problem, but I have used them and find them easy to rinse out. My personal preference is iodophor, though, as Oskaar has suggested, I will use a different sanitizer once in a while to prevent resistance. I would suggest you make a habit of sanitizing anything that contacts your mead. And yes, you don't want to boil plastic things in most cases.

"Whipping air in usually" means stirring vigorously. I sometime use a stirring paddle or sometimes a kitchen whisk. Then I stir it as fast as I can to get as much air in as possible. If I am fermenting in a plastic bucket, I take off the lid and will do this stirring to aerate.

You can successfully ferment in closed container without aeration, but with higher gravity batches or other difficult fermentations the risk of stuck fermentation will be higher.

Your failed batches indicate a spoilage organism of some sort. When I mentioned sulfites previously, I should have been more clear. After fermentation is complete, adding metabisulphite (or Campden tablets) to the mead can provide additional protection against spoilage organisms and may be worth using if you are having such problems. You will still need to protect against exposure to oxygen however.

06-22-2009, 04:24 AM
Thanks for the info!
I'm surprised to read that you reccommend NOT to boil the must.
At this page it is said to break down bacteria..
Also, the scum which can be scooped off while boiling contains stuff that will be there when not-boiled..

The farmacist also told me boiling was better for the breakdown of the sugars so they can be fermented more easily..And also for preventing contamination..
Many ways.. I'm puzzled..
A chance worth to try..
Still strange that badges go wrong when they previously turned out okay using the same method..

Yesterday i made more strawberry wine..
Very easy
-6 bottles (1 litre each) of strawbery lemonade(the stuff you have to mix with water to drink)
Add water, untill about 10-13 litre.
-add yeast (champagne or so)
-close with air lock
Bottle when fermenting is seriously slow, and store the bottels(soda bottels which can cope with the pressure) at room temp. in the dark, so it can ferment a little in the bottel to get a semi-dry spraling rose wine.
Drink cool!

06-22-2009, 07:58 AM
Since i can give it no rest i decided today to give it another try.

I took the big kettle and cleaned it with chloride solution.
This should not be nessecary since the boiling already does this (or am i mistaken here?)

Also, i gave the same treatment to a cup for hydrating the yeast.
I did not add sugar in fear of contamination..How do you do this, do you use those paper-smallportions for one cup of tea/coffee??

Also i cleaned the spoon for stirring and scooping off the foam.

Second, i filled the kettel with half the amount of water (6.5 litre) and poured, while stirring, 3kg. of honey in it. The furnace on its highest fire.

The jars already soaking in hot water to make it more liquid.

Put the lid on it, stirred it sometimes, an while boiling scooped off the foam.

In the mean while i rinsed the cup and hydrated the yeast, covering it up with kitchen-use plastic(on a roll.. must be sterile?)

After 10 minutes of boiling i shut down the fire and added from a chloride-rinsed canister another 6.5L cold water, added strong tea and felt it..
It was still very hot!

Carefully i poured it in a 15L glass fermenter which ofcourse had cleaned with chloride and rinsed while the must was heating up.
Then i put the (cleaned )air lock on it and placed it in a bath tub where it is currently cooling down with the aid of surrounding cold water.

Now i have a sock soaking in cloride solution, which i will use to cover the opening of the glass fermenter after adding the yeast.

Okay, waiting for feedback/criticism
Thanks for al your help!

Medsen Fey
06-22-2009, 10:29 AM
Any containers (such as a kettle) that are going to be boiled do not need treatment with sanitizer, nor do utensil that are going into the boiling kettle. Once the boiling is complete, anything that contact the mead should be sanitized.

I will reiterate that boiling honey must is not necessary. The sugars in honey are mostly glucose and fructose which are easily fermented by the yeast. They do not need to be heated to be broken down. The foam that is skimmed off consists mainly of protein material that will settle to the bottom after fermentation is complete and will be left behind when the mead is racked, so you don't need to boil to accomplish this. What boiling does do is drive off some of the aroma of the honey which may not be beneficial in many cases.

You can use the same method many times, but if you have batches that get a contaminant in somewhere along the way during aging or bottling, the batch can spoil. If you are making batches that stay sweet, with residual sugar, the chance for spoilage is multiplied, especially if you do not treat them with metabisulphite before bottling.

Also, your method of carbonating your lemonade batches can be dangerous. Yeast are capable of generating enough pressure to explode soda or even champagne bottles. If you are not measuring precisely how much sugar is in the batches when you bottle them, you could have dangerous flying shards of glass. If you want to do it more safely, the simplest answer is to use plastic soda bottles. They become firm as they carbonate, and if one should rupture, it will make a mess, but create no danger.

06-22-2009, 02:02 PM
I'll echo Medsen here that the sugars don't need to be broken down. Honey sugars are almost entirely monosaccharides--the very simplest and smallest of sugars. To break them down any further would make them not sugar! Furthermore, a simple boil won't break down sugars. If anything, you are more likely to create larger (and unfermentable) sugar-protein complexes during the boil. You also mentioned removing "hangover compounds". The primary cause of hangovers is alcohol (dehydration is painful), so your best bet in that regard is just to drink plenty of water.

Boiling is a good way to render your must essentially sterile. However, the bacterial load of honey is essentially zero to begin with. Reducing the bacteria count from 1 to 0 won't change much when you add 10 million yeast. It is much more important to avoid adding bacteria that is living on your equipment, which is why sanitation is so important. The rising alcohol level and falling pH will kill the few bacteria that might be living in raw honey.

06-23-2009, 03:33 AM
Many thanks for the info and support.
The foam, which consits of protein; isn't protein a cause for bad taste when it's oxidating? or does it wok another way after boiling..

This morning, no bubbling yet. So i shaked the bottel a little so that the surface was breaking.
After an hour some fizzy action is present!

As for the botteling of the lemonade wine..
I've learned.. i only use plastic fuzzy-drink bottles (cola etc) which are very strong.
Filling them all te way will prevent exploding (but will crack instead, also with glass bottles, but plastic is stronger)

More stupid questions;
1- when you add yeast to soon, (when must is too hot) can it break down and be a contaminating source itself?

2 As for the yeast starter, which has to be made with luke-warm water;
So to be on the safe side, i boiled water and put it in a cleaned glass, let it cool down until comfy warm and added the yeast..

Now i'm told the yeast needs O2 which will hardly be present in the boiled water..
did i make a mistak and maybe spoiled the yeast?

Medsen Fey
06-23-2009, 09:38 AM
The protein will precipitate out with the yeast in the lees. When you rack, you leave it behind and so no off flavors. Recently on his website (http://www.washingtonwinemaker.com/blog/2008/10/28/making-mead-testing-the-controversy-over-boiling/) errollo reported the results of a test of boiled vs. not boiled mead using heather honey (a very strong one with a distinct bitterness not everyone appreciates). In his test, the aroma was better with the non-boiled, while the flavor/body was better with the boiled.

I'm planning to test this with a less-bitter honey such as orange blossom. I can tell you that I don't find off flavors in the vast majority of my meads, and the ones I have found I think have been attributable to things other than the lack of boiling.

If you add the yeast to water that is too hot, it will just kill most of them. It will not create contamination or spoilage directly.

I don't boil the water for rehydrating the yeast. I take it directly from the tap at the appropriate temperature (which I measure with a thermometer). I don't think boiling the water will make much difference in the rehydration of the yeast as long as it is allowed to cool to the appropriate temperature (40 C).

And asking questions to improve one's understanding is never stupid.

Good mazing!

06-24-2009, 11:54 AM
In his test, the aroma was better with the non-boiled, while the flavor/body was better with the boiled.

That being said, would it be an experiment worth conducting where you boil half of the batch and don't boil the other half and then ferment together?

Would that not then improve the flavor/body of the mead without hurting the aroma? Kind of a best of both worlds thing...

Just a thought.